With the 2017 NFL campaign in the rearview, draft season's about to kick into high gear. But before we completely shift over to the Class of 2018, let's review the returns from this past season's crop of rookies. Division-by-division, we're providing grades on each team's 2017 draft class, as well as identifying areas that must be upgraded this offseason. Jeremy Bergman examines the NFC East below.
Round 1: (No. 28 overall) Taco Charlton, DE, 16 games/0 starts.
Round 2: (60) Chidobe Awuzie, CB, 10 games/6 starts.
Round 3: (92) Jourdan Lewis, CB, 15 games/7 starts.
Round 4: (133) Ryan Switzer, WR, 16 games/0 starts.
Round 6: (191) Xavier Woods, S, 16 games/4 starts; (216) Marquez White, CB, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 7: (228) Joey Ivie, DT, 0 games/0 starts; (239) Noah Brown, WR, 13 games/1 start; (246) Jordan Carrell, DT, 0 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings:Cooper Rush, QB, 2 games/0 starts.
Dallas addressed all of its obvious needs through the draft but didn't quite see the results in Year 1. Jerry Jones wanted a "war daddy" and attempted to draft one in Charlton. But the rookie was overshadowed by Demarcus Lawrence's 14.5 sacks and outplayed by Benson Mayowa at times. In drafting Awuzie, Lewis and Woods, the Cowboys patched holes left wide open in the secondary, ones Aaron Rodgers exposed in the 2016 Divisional Round. The trio is the future of the Cowboys' secondary -- especially Lewis, whose 746 snaps were second-most among Dallas corners -- but a better assessment can be made next season. Dallas' woeful receiving room didn't get much of a boost from Switzer or Brown. Rush was a surprising find, and a preseason MVP, in the draft's aftermath. GRADE: B
Combine/free agency focus:Without Ezekiel Elliott for a third of the season, the Cowboys were still one game away from the postseason. Wholesale changes aren't imminent, but there is some important tinkering to be done. Dallas must decide whether or not to move on from Dez Bryant, the aging and expensive wide receiver. Dez hasn't cracked 1,000 yards in any of the past three campaigns and is owed $16.5 million in 2018. Dallas can find cheaper, equally capable wideouts on the open market. Securing offensive-line depth, especially at the tackle positions, should be a focus, as the pathetic fill-in play of Byron Bell and Chaz Green made evident.
New York Giants
Round 1: (No. 23 overall) Evan Engram. TE, 15 games/11 starts.
Round 2: (55) Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, 16 games/16 starts.
Round 3: (87) Davis Webb, QB, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 4: (140) Wayne Gallman, RB, 13 games/1 start.
Round 5: (167) Avery Moss, DE, 11 games/2 starts.
Round 6: (200) Adam Bisnowaty, OT, 1 game/1 start.
Notable rookie FA signings:Calvin Munson, LB, 14 games/5 starts; Travis Rudolph, WR, 7 games/1 start; Chad Wheeler, OT, 11 games/5 starts.
Engram was drafted to be the versatile fourth wheel of an imposing aerial assault, already boasting Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard. But when all three went down with injuries, Engram's role changed, and the rookie tight end met the challenge (save for some blocking struggles). Overlooked because of the Ben McAdoo circus, Engram had a stellar first season, leading all rookie TEs in catches and TDs, and his selection alone makes New York's 2017 draft a successful one. Tomlinson started all 16 games and was the "cherry on top" of Big Blue's already fearsome defensive line. Thanks to a strong close, Gallman could be New York's starting running back in 2018. The specter of Webb on the bench was enough to convince many Giants fans that moving on from Eli Manning midseason was a worthy path, but the QB has proven so far to be more "afterthought" than heir.GRADE: B+
Combine/free agency focus:Where do you start? Under new management with Pat Shurmur at the helm, Big Blue must undergo an offensive renovation at every position besides WR1 and tight end. The Giants need a plan at QB going into free agency. Do they go after Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum and let Eli Manning go, or do they discover the QB of the future in the draft and keep Eli on as mentor extraordinaire? When Saquon Barkley is available at No. 2, does New York fix its RB problem and snatch the next Zeke Elliott? Will Dave Gettleman right the wrongs of the previous regime and sign some "hog mollies" on the offensive line to pave holes for whoever's at RB and maintain a pocket for whoever's at QB? New York's offseason is arguably the league's most fascinating.
Round 1: (No. 14 overall) Derek Barnett, DE, 15 games/0 starts.
Round 2: (43) Sidney Jones, CB, 1 game/0 starts.
Round 3: (99) Rasul Douglas, CB, 14 games/5 starts.
Round 4: (118) Mack Hollins, WR, 16 games/0 starts; (132) Donnel Pumphrey, RB, 0 games/0 starts.
Round 5: (166) Shelton Gibson, WR, 5 games/0 starts; (184) Nathan Gerry, S, 10 games/1 start.
Round 6: (214) Elijah Qualls, DT, 6 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings:Corey Clement, RB, 16 games/0 starts; (153) Jake Elliott, K, 15 games/0 starts (drafted by Cincinnati).
The eventual success of this draft class depends on the health of Sidney Jones. Philly selected the safety knowing full well he might not play in 2017 after rupturing his Achilles during the pre-draft process. While Jones did make his pro debut in Philly's regular-season finale, he tallied just 29 snaps and two tackles and did not play in Super Bowl LII. We can make solid evaluations about the rest of the Eagles' class, though. Barnett was an absolute force, contributing five sacks on Philly's already-dominant defensive line and recording a momentum-changing strip-sack in the NFC title game. He's a future DPOY candidate. Clement and Elliott were both sneaky finds in the offseason, with the back providing a needed change of pace from LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi. The jury is still out on Douglas, the injured Pumphrey and Jones, obviously. GRADE: B
Combine/free agency focus:What do you improve on the roster that has everything? More running back help, perhaps? Three tailbacks (Blount, Darren Sproles, Kenjon Barner) are slated to be free agents. Quarterback insurance? With Carson Wentz returning from injury, the Eagles could opt to trade Nick Foles at the height of his value, leaving only Nate Sudfeld behind Wentz on the roster. Oooh, I know. Find Jason Peters' replacement! With two years left on his deal, the veteran left tackle is entering his 15th year of service and coming off of a season-ending ACL injury. Is Halapoulivaati Vaitai really the answer at Wentz's blind side?
Round 1: (No. 17 overall) Jonathan Allen, DE, 5 games/5 starts.
Round 2: (49) Ryan Anderson, LB, 14 games/0 starts.
Round 3: (81) Fabian Moreau, CB, 16 games/0 starts.
Round 4: (114) Samaje Perine, RB, 16 games/8 starts; (123) Montae Nicholson, S, 8 games/6 starts.
Round 5: (154) Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, 11 games/5 starts.
Round 6: (199) Chase Roullier, C, 13 games/7 starts; (209) Robert Davis, WR, 1 game/0 starts.
Round 7: (230) Josh Harvey-Clemons, S, 10 games/0 starts; (235) Joshua Holsey, DB, 12 games/0 starts.
Notable rookie FA signings:Tyler Catalina, OG, 7 games/2 starts.
As with the entire roster, it's hard to tell how Washington's draft class performed due to all of the injuries. Allen, the Redskins' most promising rookie, played the first third of the season at a high clip but was placed on IR in October. Anderson was hampered by injuries and barely registered on the stat sheet behind Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. Similar deal with Moreau. When all is said and done, the Redskins' fourth-rounders might have the most positive impact on the franchise. Perine flashed potential in relief of Rob Kelley and logged the most snaps of any Washington tailback, but he didn't quite live up to lofty preseason expectations. When healthy, Nicholson paired really well with D.J. Swearinger; alas, he missed half the season. A surprise in the sixth round: Roullier might have Wally Pipped Spencer Long. GRADE: TBD, er, B.
Combine/free agency focus: With the Kirk Cousins conundrum solved -- i.e., dump him for an older, sturdier model! -- Washington can focus on its other pressing roster issues. The 'Skins have already signed one of their three free-agent linebackers (Mason Foster) and would be well-served to lock up the best of the bunch, Zach Brown, with a career deal. Washington should also look for another "X" receiver to replace Terrelle Pryor, who did little in his one-year stint with the team to warrant another deal. You can't purchase or draft health in this league, but you can build up depth, just in case. Overall, that must be Bruce Allen's main goal this offseason, now that he has transferred power under center over to Alex Smith for five seasons. Construct a roster that can compete and stay competitive in the parity-ridden NFC for the length of Smith's deal with the team.